Title. HIV/AIDS knowledge, attitudes, practices and perceptions of rural nurses in South Africa.
Aim. This paper is a report of a study exploring HIV/AIDS-related knowledge, attitudes, practices and perceptions of nurses in the largely black and rural Limpopo Province of South Africa.
Background. Studies of HIV/AIDS knowledge, attitudes and practices among healthcare workers in developing countries have shown gaps in knowledge and fear of contagion, coupled with ambivalent attitudes in caring for patients with HIV/AIDS and inconsistent universal precautions adherence.
Method. A cross-sectional study of a random sample of primary health care (PHC) (n = 71) and hospital nurses (n = 69) was carried out in 2005, using a questionnaire, focus groups and in-depth interviews.
Findings. Hospital nurses reported a higher frequency of care for patients with HIV/AIDS (P < 0·05), but less HIV/AIDS training when compared to PHC nurses (P < 0·001). HIV/AIDS knowledge was moderately adequate and associated with professional rank, frequency of care and training (P < 0·001). Attitudes towards patients with HIV/AIDS were mainly positive and were statistically significantly correlated with HIV/AIDS knowledge (P < 0·01) and training (P < 0·05). Three out of four nurses reported that they practised universal precautions (76·1%), but fear of occupational HIV transmission and lack of injection safety was found. Seven in 10 nurses reported previous needlestick injuries, but postexposure prophylaxis was not available in all healthcare facilities. Participants reported a higher workload because of HIV/AIDS, lack of training impacting negatively on their work, and stigma and shared confidentiality affecting them emotionally.
Conclusion. There is a need for accelerated HIV/AIDS training of rural nurses and for wider implementation of universal precautions and postexposure prophylaxis availability in public health facilities in southern Africa.